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The Breakdown: West Ham preview

We return to Premier League action against West Ham United on Wednesday, and ahead of the game Michael Cox assesses our opponents.

Check out more ahead of the weekend's match:

THE MANAGER

“Slaven Bilic has made a number tough decisions in his time as West Ham boss, but perhaps none more significant than the decision to drop captain Mark Noble. Kouyate is a fine all-round midfielder capable of scrapping in deep positions and storming forward into attack, while Pedro Obiang is a fine technician, capable of spreading play calmly.

“At the top of the midfield trio should be Manuel Lanzini, one of the Premier League’s most underrated footballers, a wonderfully elusive, diminutive Argentine number ten, who has particularly thrived since the departure of Dimitri Payet. Lanzini is now the man charged with creativity, and he’s been outstanding in recent weeks.”

FORMATION

“Bilic is now fairly committed to 4-2-3-1 formation having sometimes used a three-man defence earlier in the season, and the trio behind the lone striker are capable of rotating to leave Arsenal guessing.

“Andre Ayew hasn’t had a consistent impact this season because of injury and the Africa Cup of Nations, but has been in fine goalscoring form recently, and should start on the left and drift inside into goalscoring positions.”

STRENGTHS

“Bilic may use Sofiane Feghouli – a hardworking, direct midfielder capable of storming forward on the counter – although January arrival Robert Snodgrass may be preferred for his dead ball expertise.

“Indeed, West Ham have scored the second-highest number of set-piece goals this season, behind only West Brom. After Arsenal’s recent struggles at the Hawthorns, they’ll have to mark more effectively tonight.”

DANGERMAN

“Of course, the main dangerman is Andy Carroll, who remains amongst the Premier League’s greatest aerial threats. The big Geordie lingers at the far post and gives himself maximum opportunity to take a big run and jump at the ball.

“Arsenal must watch for him drifting onto the full-backs when the ball is on the opposite flank. He hit a hat-trick against Arsenal a year ago this week, including two headers, so the Gunners backline need little warning about his threat.”

AREAS TO TARGET

“The January signing of former Southampton captain Jose Fonte hasn’t solved West Ham’s lack of clean sheets. He’s formed a solid centre-back partnership with the towering Winston Reid, but West Ham haven’t protected them effectively enough, and opponents have found space in the channels.

“Bilic has had serious problems at full-back this season, often forced to play the likes of Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyate out of position on the right. Sam Bryam is more of a natural in that role, however, while Aaron Cresswell can overlap dangerously from the left.

“Intriguingly, West Ham have made the fewest tackles in the Premier League, but the most interceptions – suggesting they stand off opponents and attempt to shut off angles in the final third.”

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